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LOVE IN THE TIME OF CHOLERA

SYNOPSIS:
When young Colombian poet and telegraph clerk Florentino Ariza (Unax Ugalde) first sets eyes on the lovely Fermina (Giovanna Mezzogiorno) he falls desperately in love with her, vowing to be faithful and in love till he dies. Fermina's widowed mule trader father (John Leguizamo) is furious; he wants a man of social standing and wealth for his daughter, so takes her far away from Cartagena. On their return to the city, Fermina meets Dr Juvenal Urbino (Benjamin Bratt) who has earned a great reputation as the doctor who brought good medicine to the city, fighting the curse of cholera. They soon marry and spend a few years in Paris on an extended honeymoon. The mature Florentino (Javier Bardem), who has inherited a small shipping company, continues to nurture his love for Fermina, although his vow of fidelity has been broken ... several hundred times. Even in his old age, Florentino retains his love for Fermina, in the hope that perhaps one day ....

Review by Louise Keller:
A saga about love in the most romantic of senses, Mike Newell's adaptation of Gabriel Garcia Marquez' acclaimed novel is one man's ode to that ethereal emotion that is an end in itself. Love is the only thing that interests Javier Bardem's Florentino after meeting the beautiful and feminine Fermina (Giovanna Mezzogiorno). Time stops as their eyes meet; music plays in his heart; she is the reason for his existence. He has been struck by the 'lightening of love'. It is no easy task for screenwriter Ronald Harwood to adapt such an internal prose for the screen, yet he has done so with a poetic flourish. Bardem, who uses his puppy-dog eyes and expressive face to great effect, is the film's great draw-card. It's an ambitious project, however, and the 53 year time frame that the story covers cannot avoid becoming fragmented at times.

With its wonderful sense of place, we find ourselves deep inside Colombia, with its bustling cities, lush jungles, foreboding peaks and passionate people. The story takes place at a time when the dreaded plague is a terrifying reality and from which there is little protection. The film's soul lies in the relationship between the love-lorn Florentino and his crown goddess Fermina, and Bardem is instrumental in making our hearts melt. Such is the passion and commitment of his love, his Florentino never wavers from his vow of commitment and fidelity. Even the 622 other women that he beds along the way (his sexual adventures are similar to a road trip in themselves), are irrelevant to his belief that love is far from an illusion.

Mezzogiorno is sweetly effective as the object of Florentino's affection and I especially liked Benjamin Bratt as the caring, gentlemanly Dr Urbino who marries her. Hector Elizondo is also terrific as Florentino's wily businessman uncle who takes his nephew under his wing and seals his fate as a financial success. I am not convinced John Leguizamo is the right choice for Fermina's possessive father, who is adamant his daughter will marry well.

Although it's long, this is a film with sweet rewards. It may raise ardent debate between men and women as to who is the more romantic. According to Marquez, women are sex-hungry users, while men are the poetic, passionate ones who believe there is no greater glory than to die for love.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
For those of us who have read and loved the Gabriel Garcia Marquez novel, the film is a beautiful but somewhat clumsy representation; I hasten to add this is inevitable and the filmmakers have done well to manage it at all. Ron Harwood's screenplay is certainly a valid adaptation, though necessarily incomplete. (The cholera epidemic is largely trivialised in the film, for example.)

More problematic, though, are some of the characterisations and casting choices. Javier Bardem is splendid as Florentino, but I would have preferred a character that was less like a puppy. Poets are not insipid by nature; indeed, they are passionate and wield the power of words, which Florentino does well. Giovanna Mezzogiorno is lovely as Fermina, and Benjamin Bratt is a stand out as Urbino the urbane doctor who spends his life with her, much to Florentino's anguish. The choice of John Leguizamo for Fermina's father seems curious, since he's a bit too young, and this usually excellent actor fails to get past the acting this time. Great support from Catalina Sandino Moreno as Fermina's friend, Hilderbrande, and from Fernanda Montenegro as Florentino's mother.

The other great hurdle for a film that follows characters over 50 years-plus is that their ageing is inevitably a matter for close inspection - and often found wanting, especially in this digitally empowered age. Javier Bardem is superbly aged (and he carries himself with growing frailty), but Mezzogiorno's old age looks just like make up. These are details that can interrupt our dreaming and detract from the experience.

The many positive achievements in the film include the outstanding production design, a splendid orchestral score and the melancholy tone that is faithful to the book, but also serves the film independent of the book. A truly aching, romantic story of unending, undefeated love and yearning, the most memorable line is Florentino's assertion that love isn't a means but an end in itself.

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 0
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 2

JAVIER BARDEM INTERVIEW

LOVE IN THE TIME OF CHOLERA (M)
(US, 2007)

CAST: Javier Bardem, Benjamin Bratt, Gina Bernard Forbes, Giovanna Mezzogiorno, Marcela Mar, Juan Angel, Liliana Gonzales, Catalina Botero, Live Schreiber, Catalina Sandino Moreno, Hector Elizondo, John Leguizamo

PRODUCER: Scott Steindorf

DIRECTOR: Mike Newell

SCRIPT: Ronald Harwood (novel by Gabriel Garcia Marquez)

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Affonso Beato

EDITOR: Mick Audsley

MUSIC: Antonio Pinto

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Wolf Kroeger

RUNNING TIME: 138 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Rialto

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: May 22, 2008







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